Google Inc.'s research lab said it's working on nanoparticle technology that could be used in the near future to better detect diseases such as cancer.

The nanoparticles would be swallowed, then controlled to monitor health issues and observed through an external device, Andrew Conrad, head of Google's life sciences, said Tuesday at WSJDLive, a technology conference in Laguna Beach, California.

"If you buy a new car, it can tell you if your tires are running flat," Conrad said. "It's amazing how many sensors sit on a car. Why not have those many sensors sit on something far more important than your transportation?"